“Runaway” Prius Not Exactly a Runaway

Toyota Prius

I didn’t believe this story from the beginning.

On March 8, Jim Sikes and his 2008 Toyota Prius caused the media frenzy we all know now as the “runaway Prius.” Sikes claimed his car accelerated on its own, hitting 94 miles per hour on Interstate 8 outside of San Diego.

Sikes claims that the accelerator was stuck all the way down and he was “standing on the brakes” in an effort to get the car to slow down. It finally took a call to 911 and the California State Patrol to help bring the saga to an end.

Just listening to Sikes talk about the event was red flag number 1 for me. Call it a gut feeling, but I didn’t believe him for a second. Of course I had no evidence, but it all seemed so fishy.

Then a story surfaced about past false burglary claims filed by Sikes totaling $59,000. Red flag number 2.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigated, but couldn’t get the car to replicate the sudden acceleration and began to raise questions about the validity of Sikes’ story. Red flag number 3.

Just yesterday Toyota released the results of its investigation, which are similar to the NHTSA’s findings.

The investigation found that the front brake pads were significantly worn down and the rotors were scraping the pads’ metal backings. The investigators said this could have happened only if the brake pedal were applied and released over an extended period of time, not pressed firmly to the floor as Sikes claimed he was doing. Reuters says,

Toyota said an examination of Sikes’ Prius showed that the car was being driven with the brakes lightly and repeatedly applied — some 250 times over a 30-mile stretch of highway.

The investigation also found that the brake override system, which cuts power when the gas and brake are applied at the same time, was operational.

The Toyota report states:

Toyota engineers believe that it would be extremely difficult for the Prius to be driven at a continuous high speed with more than light brake-pedal pressure, and that the assertion that the vehicle could not be stopped with the brakes is fundamentally inconsistent with basic vehicle design and the investigation observations.

Toyota stopped short of calling Sikes a liar, taking the high road and saying that was not their judgment to make. Toyota only said that the investigation’s findings were not consistent with the scenario that Sikes describes.

That all adds up to more than enough red flags for me.

Do you think Sikes lied about his Prius accelerating out of control? I sure do.


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  1. don’t spam your articles on wired, please.
    Not to mention that your assertions made in this article are completely based on your opinions, but how does the fact that “one man MAY have faked one incident” declare that the 2008 prius doesn’t have a lot of potential problems with stuck accelerators?
    In all seriousness, I’d love to hear your response. I don’t know what you’ll respond with though. email- Robert.L.Cull.CTR@navy.mil

  2. On another article about this event, the Toyota engineers were able to download data from the hybrid’s control unit (not the black box, which is only activated by airbag release) which showed the driver repeatedly switching between brake and throttle applications. I’ve done this many times on the track to recondition brakes on test cars that have been sitting for awhile, which causes the brake rotors and drums to rust. If done properly, it does a good job of cleaning and reseating the pads and rotors. It seems pretty obvious that we have a person trying to set up conditions for a lawsuit against Toyota. I’m glad nobody got hurt by this sociopath and likely he will end up with some legal problems of his own when the prosecutor figures out how to charge in this unusual crime.

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